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Henry Dundas, Scots Guards, a Memoir
Chapter II. Henry Dundas at Eton. (By Mr C. H. K Marten)


Before Henry Dundas arrived at Eton, his parents had to decide whether to send him to College as a King’s Scholar or to a Master’s house as an Oppidan, his name having been down for my own House for some years. Henry had passed eleventh into College in the College Examination of 1910; his parents, however, putting on one side the considerable financial considerations involved, had determined to do what was thought best for their boy. In College there are seventy King’s Scholars, elected as a result of a stiff competitive examination, and therefore all intelligent and some very clever. For such an intellectual atmosphere with the invigoration that comes from competing brains there was much to be said. In any one of the twenty-six Oppidan Houses, on the other hand, the intellectual standard is, of course, very much lower. But in such a House Henry would have the advantage of meeting a greater variety of boys ; and the general outlook of an Oppidan is, not infrequently, wider than that of a Colleger. The parents eventually decided in favour of an Oppidan House, and this, if it was Henry’s loss, was at any rate his House Master’s gain. Henry, however, all through his Eton life had so many intimate friends in College that, to a large extent, he enjoyed the advantages of both societies.

The new world of Eton, to which Henry was introduced in September 1910, has often been compared to a university rather than to a school. The spacious dignity of its buildings and of its grounds, its Chapel and its Cathedral Service, its traditions of liberty and the independence of its members, all give that impression. Its vast numbers again—over 1100 at the present time —make the various Houses in which the boys are lodged more like little Colleges, each with its own individuality and traditions, and the members of each during the earlier period, at all events, of a boy’s Eton career, keeping very much together. In the supervision of these Houses an Eton Master has three advantages not always enjoyed at other schools. In the first place, his numbers are not too large or too small; no House has less than thirty-six boys nor more than forty-two. In the second place, the boys are put down for a House Master (often soon after they are born), and not for the building in which he happens to reside ; and the House Master has absolute control over his own list. Many of the boys may be the sons or connections of a House Master’s own contemporaries at Eton or the university, and an Eton House often bears something of the character of a family party. In the third place, each boy has a separate room; and there is an excellent custom at Eton whereby House Masters wander round their Houses during the hour between Evening Prayers and Lights-Out, when every boy has to be in his own room, and the House Master thus gets an opportunity of seeing a boy by himself and without formality. But, of course, the care of some forty boys who are passing through the difficult and varied stages from childhood at twelve or thirteen to manhood at eighteen or nineteen must be an arduous and anxious undertaking for any one, especially where such a large amount of liberty is allowed as at Eton, and the boys themselves, as a result of their home surroundings, are so independent; and the youthful Henry, in the course of his career, was to provide for his House Master along with many delights some measure of small anxieties.

An Eton boy fulfils the condition of Aristotle, that he should learn to obey before he begins to govern. On his arrival he has to “fag” so long as he is a Lower Boy. The duration of his existence as a Lower Boy depends upon his intellect —it may be a year, or two years, or even nearly three years. Then follows a period of some two years when he neither “fags” nor is “fagged.” After that he is allowed “to fag”; and if and when he becomes a member of the “Library,” he is allowed to call “Boy”—in other words, boys have to run to find him when he wants something done instead of his having to find some “Lower Boy.” Henry Dundas, it need scarcely be said, had the shortest possible time as a fag, and the longest possible as a fag-master.

The government of an Eton House varies considerably in detail in different Houses, and there is no absolutely fixed or stereotyped system. In my own House the government is a mixture of that of Miss Evans’s, at which House I was a boy, and of my predecessor Mr Radcliffe, from whom I originally took over the boys in my House; and as they were undoubtedly two of the best Houses at Eton, I felt I could not do better than follow their example. The governing body of the House is “the Library,” of some four to seven members. The official members of the Library are—first, the Captain of the House. He was appointed by me ; he is usually, though by no means invariably, the boy highest

[I remember when I was a boy at Eton, a boy in Miss Evans’s House was rash enough to say that he would prefer to be in Mr Radcliffe’s House to being in Miss Evans’s; this opinion, though a tribute to Mr Radcliffe, was hotly resented, it is needless to say, at “My Dame’s.”]

up in the School order. He was the boy primarily responsible for the welfare of the House, and this is the position which Henry was to occupy during his last year at Eton. Secondly, there was the Captain of the Games, appointed by the out-going Captain. Thirdly, there was the President of the Library, elected by the Debating Society—a very useful office to provide for some outstanding personality who holds neither of the two other positions. Sometimes the three offices were held by three different persons, sometimes a pluralist would hold them all—as in Henry’s first summer, when Geoffrey Colman, who but for the War would have been Captain of the Oxford University Eleven at Lord’s in the summer of 1915, was the chief presonality in the House. The other members of the Library were co-opted. It was before the Library that offenders were brought after Evening Prayers. Their cases were heard, their excuses considered, and if necessary the supreme penalty of the law was enforced—and Henry, so far as my memory serves, was to suffer on more than one occasion. Below the Library was the “ Debating Society,” election to which gave the right to sit at certain hours in the Boys’ Library, and was regarded as the first step in the ladder of promotion in the House. The members of this Society, some fourteen in number (including the Library), were elected by ballot.

It may be asked where the House Master appears in the government of his House. In my own case he is somewhat in the position of the Crown, which, according to Mr Bagehot’s immortal work on the British Constitution, has three rights—the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to 'warn. A House Master also has a veto on the supreme penalty of the law—indeed he is in a curious position of not being able to exercise that power himself, but of his leave having to be obtained by the Captain of the House before the rod can be used which prevents the spoiling of the child. But personally I have seldom interfered, believing that, as was the case at Miss Evans’s, where leave was never asked, substantial justice is as a rule done. And, of course, in any important matter, le dernier mot which, according to a French historian, is the ultimate test of sovereignty, must rest with the House Master, though in my own case it has been very seldom uttered.

How did Henry Dundas get on in this new world in which he found himself during the first three and a half years of his school life, September 1910-December 1913, which we may take as the first period of his Eton career ? With the Upper Boys he got on, so far as they saw anything of him, well. They saw the promise of the future in him; moreover, he could be relied on when they were bored to give them a Lauder song. But it must be confessed that with some of his own more immediate contemporaries during the earlier part of his Eton life he was not at all times over-popular. To begin with, boys such as he go soaring up the House and the School; they lose touch with those of their own age, and it is hardly in human nature that they should be popular with rather older boys who are being supplanted in House and School order. Moreover, the process of “growing up” in the case of boys of such abnormal activities as those of Henry is a difficult one. Your boy poet may be morose and “touchy”; the boy of Henry’s type, on the other hand, is apt to appear to be a trifle conceited, exuberant, tactless, and his self consciousness will take the form, not of shyness, but of forcing himself into the centre of the picture. And even his intellectual restlessness is exhausting to growing boys. “Henry Dundas,” said one of his contemporaries to me at the end of his second year, “is all right; but you must not have too much of him at a time.” Henry’s many good qualities, however—his good nature, his real though not always apparent modesty, his sympathy—were soon to-show themselves, and these qualities, combined with his wit and readiness and his proficiency in everything he took up, gained him a large acquaintance and many friends.

But we must turn from the House to other aspects of Henry’s career during his first three and a half years at Eton. And first intellectual. At Eton every boy has, besides his House Tutor, a Classical or Modern Tutor. When a boy first comes to Eton, he has a Classical Tutor; if and when he branches in later school life to some modern subject, he often changes to a Modern Tutor. In Houses held by Classical Masters the House Tutor and the Classical Tutor are usually one and the same person, but in other Houses they are not. In the old days, when the Eton Houses were largely held by ladies, the position of the Classical Tutor was all-important. At the present time, when all Houses are held by Masters, the position of the Classical Tutor is not, of course, except in the case of the King’s Scholars, what it was. But he is primarily responsible for the boy’s work, and the House Tutor and the Classical Tutor generally consult on most matters concerning the boy’s welfare. Henry’s Classical Tutor was R. S. Durnford, or, as we called him, “Dick.” Steeped in Eton traditions, [His grandfather and grand-uncle, the one Bishop of Chichester and the other Lower Master and Fellow of Eton, were Old Etonians, as were his father, his uncle (Provost of King’s), and two of his brothers. His great-grandfather on his mother’s side was the famous Dr Keate.] a good scholar, a capable athlete, Dick was personally one of the most equable, good-tempered, and lovable of men. Henry could not have been more fortunate ; for Dick, though alive to Henry’s superficial faults, saw the promise of the future, and had the most important of gifts—sympathy and patience. When the War came, however, in 1914, Dick was one of the first to go. I remember him now with tears in his eyes coming to tell me he had decided to join up in one of Kitchener’s earliest battalions —tears not of fear of what was coming, but of regret for what he was giving up; for we both knew—though the thought was unexpressed— how uncertain were his chances of returning to the work and place he loved so well.

In Dick Durnford’s pupil-room the chief companions of Henry Dundas were Arthur Pitman and Wernher. Arthur Pitman was also in my House, a most cheery sunny boy with a competent brain and gifted with a directness and frankness of speech which was pleasing if occasionally embarrassing. Neighbours in Edinburgh, in the same House and the same pupil-room, Henry and Arthur were naturally thrown a good deal together. They were of different temperaments; of different gifts—Arthur excelling with the brush, Henry with the pen ; of different occupations—Arthur, as was fitting with one of his family, being a Wet-Bob and securing his Eight, and Henry being a Dry-Bob who ought to have got his Eleven. And yet they were always good friends, if occasionally conscious, as boys, and still more grown-up people in small societies are apt to be, of each other’s failings. Wernher, Henry’s chief intellectual rjval, was a most remarkable boy. In any examination he could beat any of his contemporaries of his age, including the Collegers. I remember the late ViceProvost of Eton, Mr Rawlins, saying almost with despair, that it was impossible to give him anything but a hundred marks out of a hundred for a Latin translation ; and Sir Richard Lodge of Edinburgh, who examined him in History, was greatly impressed by his remarkable mastery of the facts of the Reformation period in European History. I have never come across a boy in my experience—which is now rather a long one— who could, apparently without effort, master a complicated period with greater ease or write upon it with more unfailing lucidity. His writing lacked the liveliness that Henry would give to an answer, but then Wernher never omitted any material point. And now all four of these friends, each so full of promise, have gone from us. Dick was killed in an attack near Hooge in 1915; Wernher fell in one of the last offensives of the Somme in ’16; Arthur Pitman was “missing” with his aeroplane, his final fate unknown, in the early part of ’18 ; and Henry was killed on the Canal du Nord in the last phase of the War.

Henry’s intellectual successes began at once.

Lord Rosebery, the most distinguished of Eton’s living historians, had just given a sum of money to found prizes at Eton for the encouragement of History. The prizes were allocated, one for competition amongst Lower Boys, and the other for those at the top of the School. Henry as a Lower Boy in his first Half competed and obtained one of the two prizes: it was peculiarly appropriate that the prize given by Pitt’s Scottish biographer should go, on this its first presentation, to the great-great-great-grandson of Pitt’s chief Scottish ally, Henry Dundas, afterwards Lord Melville. That same Half, Henry obtained the Brinckman Divinity Prize, and by the end of his second year at Eton he had taken a “Trials Prize” and various “Distinctions in Trials,” as well as the School Certificate which exempted him from any University Entrance Examination. The next four Halves of his career, September 1912-December 1913, were spent, two of them “up” to the present Vice-Provost, Mr Macnaghten, and the others “up” to the late Vice-Provost, Mr Rawlins, one an ex-Eellow of Trinity and the other of King’s, and deservedly reputed to be the two best teachers in the School. With the end of 1913 Classics ceased to be the staple of Henry’s education, and we may appropriately end with two extracts from Classical reports. One is from Mr Booker, to whom he was “up” in the summer of 1912 :—


“Name : .    . . Dundas, O. S.
“Place : .    . . 4th.

“An exceedingly sharp youth—almost too sharp for the peace of mind of his division-master, whom he bombards with volleys of incisive, and often awkward questions! But underneath this inquisitiveness, I am afraid, there is some lack of thoroughness. Careless blunders mar his compositions, and a meticulous study like Greek accentuation is beneath his contempt. There is no doubt a fascination in watching the agility of his mind, but he has the defects of his qualities. R. P. L. Booker.”

And the other is from Mr Macnaghten in the Michaelmas Term of the same year :—


“Dundas is an excellent boy, as keen as mustard, and willing to take any amount of pains. He is also very intelligent, and takes considerable interest in all his work. Unfortunately he breaks down in verse composition, and that is my only reason for not sending him up for good. I am really sorry to have to disappoint him; but when I looked through all the verses I had kept throughout the Half there was no copy of his forthcoming, and indeed he has only once got more than half marks. His Iambics are on the same low level—Greek Prose and Latin Prose are both much better, but there was no copy of either sufficiently good to merit sending up. English Essays and history are strong points:    he has latterly done very well in construing ; and throughout he has been a lively and appreciative member of the division. High spirits not always kept in control before my entry can hardly be reckoned against him— a most promising friendly boy.

H. Macnaghten.”

In athletics, Henry was meanwhile during these three and a half years making his mark. In his very first summer—the summer of 1911—the House won the Junior Cricket Cup. It is no exaggeration to say that Eton cricket has been transformed during the last twenty-five years by the introduction of the “League System” for “Dry-Bobs” under sixteen. The twenty-six Houses are divided into two Leagues, the thirteen Houses in each League play every other House, and then the leaders of each League play each other for the Cup. When I was a boy I remember the listless slack games of cricket boys of under sixteen used to play; now, when these matches are in progress, one sees little groups of partisans dotted over the vast extent of Agar’s Plough watching with unremitting interest the fortunes of the games. The matches are just long enough. Scores of over 100 for an innings are infrequent, those of under 50 quite common; 3 to 5 hours’ cricket sees, as a rule, the match over.

In the particular year 1915 my House headed one League with a record of 13 matches played and 13 won; and it then beat the leading House of the other League by an innings and 67 runs. In these successes the protagonists were Lord Francis Hill, Eric Anson, and Henry Dundas. When our opponents were in, those three between them got rid of most of the side. Henry was a safe wicket-keeper, Hill and Anson brilliant slips. Anson used to bowl at one end with Hill at slip ; and the next over was vice versa. With small boys’ cricket the number of slip and wicket catches given is remarkable; and a look through the lists of the old matches shows how often the best bats among our opponents succumbed either to one or the other. We always put our opponents in first on principle, generally got them out cheaply, and then went in ourselves. At the beginning of the season Hill made the most prodigious number of runs, and after the first few matches had an average of something over 200. When he failed, Anson and Dundas made runs; and if all three failed—as happened very seldom—the tail would wag effectively, as it did in the Final Match, when the first 5 wickets went down for 59 and yet the total reached 150. Henry was splendidly keen in all these matches, and eventually wrote an account of them with full details and a commentary, and a final summing up of the season. It was written on twenty-four large pages of foolscap, and then presented to me—and for a boy of fifteen it was written with an astonishing amount of vividness and vitality.

In the next year, 1912, Henry Dundas was Captain of the Junior Eleven, and got his Upper Sixpenny—i.e., the best Eleven in the School of those under sixteen ; and in the following year he got his Lower Club—i.e., the best Eleven of those a year older. To Eton football he did not take very kindly; but he was very promising at Rugby, and in the Lent School-time of 1913, when just over sixteen, he made his first appearance for the School Fifteen.

11. January 1914 - July 1915.

We now come to the second stage of Henry’s career at Eton—the year and a half from January 1914 to July 1915—and here some explanation is necessary of Eton studies. The whole curriculum has been transformed in the last quarter of a century. When I was a boy at Eton, and even when in 1895 I came back as a Master, the staple of education throughout the School was Latin and Greek, with the exception of a certain number who took up German for Greek, and those who belonged to the Army Class. That Latin and Greek still occupy a predominant position throughout a boy’s life at Eton is still, I observe, held by educational “experts” who write to the papers, and by not a few Old Etonians. It is therefore not out of place to say that at the present time more iJhan half the boys in the School never study the Greek language at all at any period of their career. Those judged of linguistic promise, however, some 40 per cent to 45 per cent, study Greek for at least two years, and most of them continue to do so, at any rate, till somewhere between the ages of sixteen and seventeen and a half, when they obtain the School Certificate. Henry was, of course, one of the clever ones, and he continued, by my advice and Dick’s, to make Classics his chief study for a year and a half after he had passed the Certificate Examination successfully, as he was then so very young.

When a boy has secured a School Certificate he is allowed to “specialise”—specialisation is allowed in a modified form before this, but not in the full form until the Certificate is over. Then a boy may take up either Classics, or Mathematics, or Science, or Modern Languages, or History, as his chief subject, or he may belong to a general Division and enjoy a more varied diet composed of a mixture of Classics, History, Science, and French. A goodly number of boys choose History, which, of course, for those with political traditions behind them, is a very congenial subject.1 In some School stories I observe that the History specialist is depicted as a kind of gilded youth who takes up History frankly as a soft option. I will not deny that there may be some of this particular variety at Eton, but the historians at Eton have always included a number of able boys with fresh and active minds. My colleagues (Mr G. W. Headlam and Mr C. H. Blakiston) and I myself, who have been responsible for the historians, have always, however, been against excessive and undue specialisation. The historians spend a quarter of their school hours over languages, either Classics, German, Latin, or French. Moreover, they take up other subjects, such as Civics or Economics, Geography or English, so that considerably less than half their school hours are directed exclusively to History. My own endeavour has always been to interest the boys by taking up some period in detail, and to teach them by essays and by questions how to use their facts for purposes of argument and illustration, and to write their own language lucidly and, if possible, attractively. The lot of a teacher trying to interest boys of seventeen or eighteen in the study of History is indeed an enviable one; he might well hesitate, to parody Gibbon’s phrase, to exchange his invincible love of teaching such boys for all the wealth of the Indies —and of all boys, perhaps Eton boys are the most rewarding, in this subject at any rate, to teach.

From the moment that Henry came to Eton there was never any doubt as to what subject he would eventually take up. He was no Classical scholar in the strict sense of that word; and both his Latin and Greek Composition were below scholarship form. But, on the other hand, he was keenly interested in History, and had just the mind for it. To begin with, like Macaulay, he had a most remarkable capacity, almost a voracity for detail. When he was a young boy at Eton he knew not only all the teams in the Scottish Football League and their places in it, but even each individual member by name and his position in the football field. Later on, golf records became his hobby, and it was impossible to “stump” him in the performances of any professional, more particularly if he was a Scot. From these he branched to Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas, which he knew practically by heart, and the person who bet Henry a franc on a Gilbert and Sullivan quotation (Letters, p. 77) was as ill-advised as Walpole who, it will be remembered, lost his guinea to Pulteney over a quotation from Horace. In the second place, Henry possessed a remarkably clear head, and when he came to the serious study of History was always master of his details. The more complicated the period the more he enjoyed it. I remember doing with him in particular the reign of Charles II., perhaps the most complicated in English History, and the history of the Italian States, 1494-1516, a perfect maze of changing personalities and politics. I had to do that particular period of Italian History for my Schools at Oxford, and very difficult I found it. But Henry succeeded without difficulty in mastering the intricate family and political relationships of the many families, such as the Medici, Sforza, and the House of Anjou, and in tracing the endless succession of leagues these families formed against each other in turn. Thirdly, Henry delighted in the study of human personality. The characters of past times had a never-failing attraction for him, and essays on such people were amongst the best he ever did. Fourthly, Henry had in his writing, if a certain exuberance, also great vitality and “go,” and his writing was full of that indefinable “promise” which Oxford examiners look for in their History scholars.

Henry had, in his year and a half as a History specialist, some able boys in his Division, such as Impey, the Brackenbury scholar of Balliol, who wrote as a boy in a style so mature that his English master put his work in a different class from that of any one else; Dickinson, who was later to fly over Constantinople in the War, and who was able to aim his bombs with greater precision because of the plan of the city he had studied with his Classical Tutor while at Eton; Browne, Scholar of Magdalene, Cambridge, who was to lose his leg on his first day in the battlefield; Blacker, a very able boy killed in the War; Cazalet, the friend of us all; and of course the unconquerable Wernher.

But to Henry Dundas himself, however, the first Half of 1914 was memorable, probably not so much because he became a History specialist, but because he was a member of the Eton Rugby Fifteen which succeeded in defeating Wellington. Rugby Football is only played by a few of the Upper Boys at Eton for part of one Half in the year, whilst it is the School game at Wellington. That School very kindly gave us a match every year, and almost invariably a very considerable beating. But in this particular year we had the advantage of a deluge of rain—“the rain came down in buckets”—as on the day before the battle of Waterloo. Such rain which, according to modern French historians, proved, by delaying Napoleon’s advance the next day, to be the salvation of Wellington on the battlefield of Waterloo, was on this occasion the ruin of the school called after his name. It enabled the Etonians to convert the game into a kind of Eton dribbling game, and to snatch a victory by 9 points to 3. It is a curious example of the weakness of human nature, that all of us, however old we may be, look upon a game which we have won by some amazing “fluke” as a well - merited success. Henry’s letter to his father on the match, which, as being an historic occasion, is printed below, would not be less enthusiastic if an older person had been the victor and the writer, and not a boy of barely seventeen. Wellington boys who may happen to read it will no doubt feel that they need not grudge, after their many victories, this modest success to Eton, and its perhaps exuberant celebration—for it has so far been the only, and may well prove to be the last, success that falls to Eton’s lot.

“Darling Daddy,—The greatest triumph of the century! We have beaten Wellington by 3 tries to one. It really was a grand performance. I will now proceed to narrate in detail: On Thursday we played New College, on a wet day and a wet ground, and we got beaten by 27-0. Not very encouraging. New were very good: strong and big in the scrum. We only got the ball twice the whole match—and very fast and clever behind, led by W. G. K. Boswell, who got four tries himself. Well, on Friday afternoon we had a mild practice, scrums, tackling, kicking, &c., then on Saturday morning we went round to Kindersley’s, and he gave us some last words of advice. Rain began about 10 and continued off and on all the morning, so by the time of kick off, 3, the ground was like a bog. We took the Field as follows :—

J. G. Frere,
A. R. Cooper, G. E. Younghusband, G. D. Pape, and L. E. C. Dale Lace.
A. S. Belmont, H. L. Dundas,
S. I. Fairbairn, I. P. R. Napier, J. Scudamore, D. C. Cayley, A. H. Gold, T. S. Hankey, H. G. C. Streatfeild, and P. S. Abraham. Simpson hurt his leg, so Tom played instead of him.

“The Editor of the ‘Sportsman’ told Pape just before the start that we should be very lucky if beaten by less than 15 points. The ground looked very smart with ropes. Things all round it, and there was a big crowd, including a lot of Sandhurst and Wellington lads. We won the toss and played towards the River; Slough road at our backs; the rain fell in torrents. Their three-quarters tried to get going, but our tackling was deadly. After about a quarter of an hour our forwards settled down, and began to rush the Wellington pack all over the field. The ball was like leaden glass, so handling was impossible. Several times the forwards almost had it over, and then just before half-time I hurled myself over the line between the posts in the most dashing style: Loud cheers. Pape missed the kick : Half Time : Eton 3, Wellington 0. Every one frightfully bucked. Well, straight from the start of the second half, our forwards rushed down on their line, and after a bit of loose play Cayley got a try in the corner. Napier almost converted —6-0. Then Wellington began to press. Their forwards heeled, and Davis, the outside half, got the ball out to Simson, the right centre, who passed to Allom, the right wing, who repassed to Simson, who scored. Quite a good piece of work. The kick failed : 6-3. Then from the 25 kick Scu. headed a grand rush down to their line, where we stayed till the end. Scrum after scrum we got over about four times, and each time the referee—a man Griffiths—who did very well— had them back, as he couldn’t see. Then at last, five minutes from the end, Ian Fairbairn hurled himself over. The kick again failed: 9-3. Then ‘No side.’ The crowd really got excited and cheered like anything. How different to the ghastly apathy at those ridiculous field matches last Half. Old Kindersley almost lost control: he was frightfully bucked. On our side the forwards were wonderful: they kept it up the whole ‘ time, only showing faint signs of cracking when they got their try. Ian Fairbairn led them magnificently, and Ian Napier, Scu., and Tom were about the next best, though every one of them was splendid. Algy and I were both very much on the job, and went down to the ball with tremendous courage. The three-quarters had nothing to do. . . . John Frere was, as usual, excellent in all he had to do at back. The mud was unspeakable : all of us, particularly Algy, Ian Fairbairn, Scu., and I were unrecognisable, black from top to toe. Everybody was wild with delight. It really was splendid, though of course on a fine day they would have won, as their backs

were supposed to be really good, esp. the Allom-Simson wing, but of course they never got a chance, as our forwards controlled the game. It will be topping seeing Mum on Thursday. I wish you could come down too. I suppose it is impossible. I got a for a 28 pages on Wallenstein last week, thus keeping up my record of over 50 for every essay this half. Now I must flee to school. Love from


In August 1914, as we all know too well, came the Great War. The immediate result upon Eton was that 150 boys who would have stayed on at once left, some of them only seventeen or even sixteen years of age, for fear that otherwise they “might be too late for the War”! My own House was depleted like other Houses, and included in the number were Arthur Pitman, the Anson twins, and Tom Hunter, who lost his leg in an accident, then joined the Flying Corps, and was the first of our airmen to be killed in Italy. Consequently the younger generation of boys came to the front, and Henry’s time of greatness at School, which would normally have come from September 1915 to July ’16, came a year earlier.

Benjamin Disraeli, in spite of the fact that he was at no Public School himself, has given us in his wonderful picture of Eton in 'Coningsby,’ a celebrated passage on a boy’s last year at school. “Fame and power,” he writes, “are the objects of all men. Even their partial fruition is gained by very few, and that too at the expense of social pleasure, health, conscience, life. Yet what power of manhood in passionate intenseness, appealing at the same time to the subject and the votary, can rival that which is exercised by the idolised chieftain of a great Public School? What fame of after days equals the rapture of celebrity that thrills the youthful poet, as in tones of rare emotion he recites his triumphant verses amid the devoted plaudits of the flower of England? That’s fame, that’s power: real, unquestioned, undoubted, catholic.” Not many boys at any school can have had activities so manifold or powers so great as Henry Dundas in his last year. In the Michaelmas School-time of 1914 he became a member of the Vlth Form and Captain of his House; and he was also appointed Editor of the ‘Eton College Chronicle.’ Before the Half was over he had gained his House Colours at Football, and been elected into Pop; and most important of all, he had obtained a History Exhibition at New College, Oxford. In the Lent School-time of 1915 he became Captain of the Rugby Fifteen, and won the Loder Declamation Prize, Lord Curzon being the judge and delivering a most interesting address on Oratory. In the summer he became Captain of the Oppidans, won a History Scholarship at Christ Church, Oxford, and was within an ace of getting his Cricket Eleven; and he finished up his career by securing the first Oppidan Prize in an examination for those at the top of the School.

Nor does this fist exhaust his activities. Eton is as much riddled by societies as Oxford, and practically every evening Henry was out—on Monday perhaps to the Scientific Society; on Tuesday certainly to the Shakespeare Society; on Wednesday to an Intercession Service, held during the War; on Thursday to the Essay Society; on Friday to a “Pop” debate; and on Saturday perhaps first to a Lecture, and then to a Debate in the House at his own House Debating Society. And had the Eton Political Society been in existence in his day he would certainly have become an active member of that. Moreover, he was a prolific writer. Essays, sometimes of thirty pages, leaders and articles for the ‘Eton College Chronicle,’ squibs and lampoons intended for more private circulation, poured from his pen. He also produced in his last Half an ephemeral known as the 'Jolly Roger.’ Of this a Master had to be the censor; and article after article and verse after verse that Henry’s fertile brain produced, had to endure, as reflecting on various authorities, the censorial “blue pencil.” Finally, when at last his labours were completed and the paper on the verge of production, the censor produced this apology to Henry :—

A Plea from the Criminal, in arrest of Judgment.

(To the tune of “There’s no fool like an old fool.”)

Ungenially, I fear, I’ve baulked your springing A mine of mirth to make all Eton split;

Incensed, you long to see the Censor swinging, Yourself the Acolyte—that were but fit.

Suspend instead—your judgment, till it mellow (He once was younger than your ardent self,

And even now he means no ill, poor fellow);

Suspend it, till you too are on the shelf.


Taking some of Henry’s activities in various fields, we may begin by saying something about his work. His various successes, his Exhibition and Scholarship, his Loder and Oppidan Prizes, showed he had not been idle. Moreover, he had the great advantage of being for part of his History and Classics up to Mr C. R. L. Fletcher, the distinguished historian, who had come temporarily to take his son’s place as Master. [The son was in the trenches at Bois Grenier, just behind which he now lies buried. The Germans had captured a French flag, which they boastingly flew from the top of their trendies. Fletcher stole across No Man’s Land one night and managed to seize it and to return unscathed. That flag is now in the Ante-Chapel at Eton.] All of us, Masters and boys, were the better, not only for Mr Fletcher’s teaching, but for association with his personality. And I cannot refrain from quoting two characteristic reports.


“A very able boy, with a fine natural gift for scholarship and with strongly marked taste for Literature. Nihil tangit quod non ornat. And seldom can any Master have had a boy whom it was such a pleasure to teach and to know.

Conduct—Excellent in every respect.

C. R. L. Fletcher.”

“History report for lent school-time, 1915.

“Far the ablest of the specialists, he can turn out work that none of them can touch; but he can also be frightfully disappointing. His interest is so varied, and everything comes so easy to him, that he is in danger of coming to grief not between two, but between a dozen stools. I believe he writes the leaders for the *Chronicle" while he is actually translating Homer right under my nose. His sense of form and style, his literary instinct, are most remarkable, and the gusto with which he flies at a difficult subject is delightful. I did not know that he was also a linguist till I asked him to translate a piece of thirteenth-century Norman-French at sight—he did it almost without a mistake. His lovable character makes it almost impossible to scold him, and yet I feel that he often wants scolding. Another thing that strikes me favourably is the great sanity of his opinions when you can get him in a serious mood. He thinks everything out for himself, or else the right idea comes to him without reflection.

“Conduct—Excellent; apt to be on tardy book, however.

C. R. L. Fletcher.”

As Captain of the House, Henry Dundas was very sensible, and he possessed that sanity of judgment to which Mr Fletcher referred. He himself, in the House-Book, to which each successive Captain contributed a commentary with the doings of the House, rejoiced in the fact that the House was not during his period of influence, “standoffish,” as perhaps Eton Houses, my own included, are often inclined to be. “The old grim spirit,” he says, “of keeping to ourselves has entirely died out, and a delightful spirit of broad-mindedness and toleration has taken its place. The House Library is now the rendezvous of all the best elements in Eton. Everybody with any claims to intelligence or pleasantness of conduct is welcome—and both are gainers.”

In the large domains of School life he was, of course, increasingly prominent. He was elected to Pop at Christmas, and in his last summer, as Captain of the Oppidans, was one of the chief officials in the School and in the inner ring of the oligarchy which directed affairs. The Captain of the School as highest Colleger, the Captain of the Oppidans as the highest Oppidan, are officially the authorities of the School, and with the Captain of the Boats, the Captain of the Eleven, and the President of Pop, are the boys consulted on all matters of importance. The Captain of the Oppidans is also the arbiter in all matters of fagging, and he is traditionally the champion of the rights of Vlth Form. He keeps an "Oppidan Book" in which are recorded the chief events in his turn of office; and I remember how Henry rejoiced in reading the luminous pages which Lord Curzon contributed when he held that position.

In the days of Dundas came the “collar controversy.” It seems absurd to quarrel about collars, but, after all, Rome was rent in twain in the first century B.C. about the purple border to the toga, and Prime Ministers of Great Britain have been known to spend sleepless nights over the disposal of a Garter. And, of course, as in Rome with the toga, the collar was merely the symbol of a constitutional struggle. The Vlth Form at Eton has various rights—it proceeds in stately procession up Chapel, it provides the speakers in the speeches on 4th June, it on ceremonial occasions represents the School. George III., on one occasion, asked Stratford Canning, known later to fame as Lord Stratford de Redclilfe, when he was still a boy at Eton, what part of the School he was in. “The Vlth Form, sir,” answered Canning. “A much greater man,” replied the King, “than I can ever make you.” But that incident happened more than 100 years ago, and membership of Vlth Form does not count for so much as it did. The body which does carry the greater weight is “Pop,” or the Eton Society. This is a society which was founded in 1811 for purposes of debate, and Mr Gladstone and other famous persons were members of it; and a short time ago it celebrated its centenary, with Lord Rosebery in the chair. Nowadays, however, its debating has somewhat sunk into the. background, and it is a society representing the dominant personalities in the School. It has certain official elements, but most of the members are co-opted by the boys themselves. Of course, as in every school, the athletic element is well represented; but it by no means follows that because a boy is in the Eleven or the Eight he should be elected to Pop. Indeed, at times the “intellectuals” have been the predominant element.

Both Vlth Form and the Eton Society have certain distinguishing marks of dress, Vlth Form in collars, and Pop in collars and other articles of attire. When Henry was Captain of the Oppidans a Colleger in Vlth Form suddenly startled the Eton world, or rather the upper portion of it, by wearing a collar which hitherto Pop had only worn. At once the hot-heads in Pop were up in arms; behind the collar, it was thought, lurked the design to revive the glories of Vlth Form at the expense of Pop. Henry, as at once a member of Pop and the Captain of the Oppidans, might have been justified in a seat on the fence; but he at once plunged into the fray on the side of Vlth Form. Feeling at one time ran strong. The matter was eventually unofficially referred to a Master who was a former President of Pop; and I remember his telling me how Henry had at once got to the heart of the controversy, and proved with inexorable logic that a self-appointed and unofficial, and in the annals of Eton, an almost mushroom body like Pop, could have no rights against an authorised body like Vlth Form, who were officially, though not perhaps actually, the chief authorities of the School. The more extreme members of Pop were convinced, and Vlth Form wore what collars they liked.

No doubt the controversy appears a very childish one during the Great War; but it was not more childish, and certainly less reprehensible, than the various squabbles at the same time, bet ween Government Departments; and nothing seems more absurd to outsiders and of greater importance to those engaged in it than a controversy on some constitutional symbol of power! But I have related the story rather because it illustrates Henry’s courage in upholding a cause which was not the popular one, his judgment in at once realising the strength of the position of Vlth Form, and his successful insistence upon it in discussion and debate.

I have said at the beginning of this chapter that Henry was not over-popular with his contemporaries during the earlier part of his career. What was his position in the School at the end? Henry had gradually during his career at Eton been shedding his exuberances, though the hypercritical might still perhaps have liked to use a pruning-knife. But his many excellent qualities, his good temper, his courage, his real kindness of heart, had won recognition; and the variety of his gifts and attainments, his ready wit, his wide reading, his powers of imitation and storytelling, made him the most amusing and interesting of companions. At the end of his time at Eton he was certainly one of the outstanding personalities of the School. Mr Alan Lubbock, one of Henry’s closest friends, has kindly sent an appreciation which gives the point of view of a contemporary, and describes admirably his activities and the impression he made.

“During his last year or two at Eton, Henry’s position was most remarkable. Perhaps what struck his contemporaries most was the enormous number of boys in the School whom he knew : for he knew practically every one, even the most unlikely; and those whom he did not know personally he usually knew by sight. Here again the power of his memory and his eagerness for the acquisition of knowledge showed themselves. If he saw a boy about whom he knew nothing, he at once took steps to find out; and many a time, when I have asked Henry about some obscure-looking Lower Boy whom he had just greeted by his Christian name, he has given me a complete history of his life, including private school and position in his family—and this when there was no special reason at all why he should take any interest in him. But none of his relations depended simply on his qualities of good companionship. It would be a mistake to suppose that his enormous acquaintance was the result of mere curiosity, or of a desire to be on easy neutral terms in all circles. His unceasing energies worked in his social talents, as well as in everything else, so that all who knew him felt that an active force, stimulating, disturbing, as well as delighting, was being brought to bear upon them. To make life as full as possible, to push it into closest contact with every point of his surroundings, was his continual object, in pursuit of which institutions were explored to the limit of their possibilities, and from personalities a definite response of some kind was necessarily evoked.

This response was, as often as not, in some form of opposition, and a considerable measure of unpopularity would undoubtedly have resulted, had it not been for Henry’s obvious affection for every one. He attacked right and left, but never with malice: the “heavies,” as he called the more exclusively athletic section of the school, particularly in Pop, were continually being satirised, but always to their faces, and in a way so full of humour and good nature that ill-feeling never entered, to prevent his victims taking equal delight with every one else in the fresh view which his imagination gave them of themselves and of all about them. When there were any differences or antagonisms which sprang from personal causes, jealousy or the like, I never remember that Henry took any side—kindly ridicule was poured on both, and ill-feeling generally melted in laughter; but whenever there was a controversy on a matter of principle, he declared himself at once as on one side, and employed reason, wit, and all to their fullest, not only to prevail over the other side, but to convince them.

“His remarkable powers of entertainment helped to make up his position in the School, and especially in Pop, where not only could he hold a large audience spellbound while he recited the lurid biography in verse (composed perhaps during the last school) of some eminently worthy master, but also, what was more difficult, he could stimulate others to flights of fancy rivalling his own, being ‘not only witty in himself, but the cause that wit was in other men.’

“Logic always supported, if it did not guide, the tremendous overflow of his energies, sometimes to the embarrassment of his friends, who were often compelled, if only in self-defence, to try to curb some of his activities. During his last two Halves he was Oppidan editor of the ‘Chronicle,’ in which he saw a rather dull official paper, needing to be revived with a little sensational journalism. This he gave it (especially in reports of Rugger matches, where he loved to employ the methods of the cheap sporting Press), and his efforts were a continual source of alarm to the more timid College editor, whose counsels of moderation Henry generally dismissed with his convincing logic; though if he saw that any friend would really be happier for his abandoning some project, he would always do so with perfect good humour, and look for some other field for his enterprise.

“In his relations with his closest friends, loyalty and sympathy were unfailing, and in spite of all his own varied powers, he had a real and deep admiration, which was always fully expressed, for anything that was at all good in what they did. In his generous appreciation of other people’s qualities or powers, he never thought of comparing them with his own; just as in his vigorous exercise of his own talents, he never had time to stop and admire them. So complete was this part of Henry’s life, and so concentrated had he always been on making the best use of the present time, that no one, I think, who genuinely loved Eton ever left with fewer regrets—even though that was at a time when leaving meant much more than it does in times of peace, for we were acutely conscious of what was coming.

“To indicate fully other Eton figures, often only one image is needed, as when a boy found expression entirely or mainly in one line, whether that was in rowing, in cricket, in disciplining his house, or in anything; but with Henry, by reason of his identification of himself with Eton life in every aspect that offered, this is impossible: each image, each phrase means so little, except in the light of a hundred others, and it is impossible to convey briefly to those who did not know him any idea of the variety of the delight and inspiration which his memory brings to those who were privileged to be his friends.”

For Henry I looked forward to the possession of an All Souls’ Fellowship at Oxford, and to a brilliant career in the future. For it was in politics that he would probably have found his real vocation. He would have revelled in the elections, public meetings, the changes in the fortunes of the “Blues” and “Greens ” in our political arena—if such continue—and in all the things which, whatever the critics may say, make political life undeniably attractive to those who take part in it. But Henry Dundas had also the capacity for detail, the insight and the sympathy and, above all, the courage which would have made him a statesman and not a mere politician; and there is no height to which he might not have risen. The Great War, however, claimed him, as it did all others of his age at the very threshold of their careers; and the boy who left Eton in July 1915 after his last year of delights, was within a year to see the most blood-stained highway in the world at Hooge, and to witness death in its most horrible forms on the Somme. At twenty he was to command a Company, with the lives of some 200 men dependent upon his judgment and his example; and soon after he was twenty-one his life with all its brilliant promise was to close.

In Mr Fletcher’s reports there is a reference to Henry’s various and conflicting activities. But the wonder to me is that boys during the War worked as well and behaved as well as they did. “The Angel of Death,” said John Bright in a famous speech during the Crimean War, “has been abroad throughout the land; we may almost hear the beating of his wings.” But if the Crimean War claimed its thousands, the Great War claimed its hundreds of thousands. Death was very close to us at Eton during those four years. One day a boy would lose his father ; the next another would mourn a brother. Week by week were read in the Chapel the names of those Old Etonians who had just fallen; week by week the lists of the dead outside the Chapel grew longer. And when the boys reached an age when they could kill and be killed, they went forth to meet gas and liquid fire, the bullet and the shell, the grenade and the mine. Over all hovered the Angel of Death; the fortunate might hope for wounds or imprisonment, for gas or shell-shock, but to one in four the Angel would give the summons. Some of us older people thought, and thought wrongly, that youth cared only for the moment, and had no thought for the morrow; all the more honour to those boys at Eton and elsewhere who faced that morrow and all its horrors unflinchingly, and so far as their elders were concerned, silently. They worked and played at school, and talked and behaved just as if the future had no troubles ; but they knew what awaited them and said nothing.

Henry’s continual reference to his life at Eton in his letters from the front show how strong a hold it had secured upon him and how affectionate was his memory of it. I remember a Master of a renowned Oxford College saying to me that with boys from other schools their loyalty and affection to their University or College might come first, but with Etonians never—Eton is always first with them. And those of us, either old or young, who are in any way responsible for Eton welfare, will feel that the highest tribute we can pay to those who are gone is to endeavour to preserve the best traditions of the School, and to do our utmost to make the name of Eton as much cherished by future generations of Etonians as it was by those generations who fought and died in the Great War.

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